A Special Lady

I’ll tell you something you already know,

I really like you and that’s up for show.

You’re so incredible and a sight for sore eyes,

Your brain a whacky combo of wicked and wise.

We started off decently well if you ask me,

Until those unfortunate times came by.

But you kept faith in me and always stuck around,

Took me a while but a keeper in you I found.

I reflect on our times quite seldom,

Especially the dumb letter that I penned. 

You’re unlike anything my eyes perceived,

And those fences I’m trying to mend.

It’s not easy to make a list of the things I like about you,

Especially since I tried but ran out of ink.

I wish you could see yourself the way I see you,

The thought of you makes my cheeks go pink.

You’re a worldly woman who doesn’t understand her might,

A person with an aura alike the sun so bright.

Your laugh is so natural that it just brightens my day,

It is what I look forward to like the weekend on a Monday.

There are so many things I want to do,

So many emotions to express. 

Hug you and kiss you and hold you tight,

And in my hoodies I want you to dress.

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20 Positives Of 2020 (Part 2)

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The other day I spoke about why it is important to practice gratitude for your happiness and peace. If you haven’t read it yet, click here. I did not want to end this year on a bad note, because I have been grateful for a lot of things. So here’s an elaborate list of all the things that have come out of 2020 that have added value to my life and have a positive impact.

Ps. If you haven’t read the first part yet, click here.

11. Professional/Blog Growth and Writing

For Bombay Ficus and for me personally as a writer, the lockdown was a big win. Not only did I get more time to write and publish more content, it also allowed me to brainstorm and put forward more projects and expand the blog. 

For all our readers that aren’t aware, Bombay Ficus was birthed amidst the lockdown on 19th June, 2020. (To read about our history, click here). The lockdowns across the globe also led to increased internet activity that gave this page a boost in terms of it’s viewership and visitors, which is only encouraging for me as a blogger to write and publish more often.

I have also embarked on a journey to become an author and wrote down the first chapter to what I hope will eventually be a published book someday. (You can find my experience of the beginning as an author here)

12. Nurturing Relationships, Recalibrating Priorities and Recognising Important People

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As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I was communicating with a handful of people that I really called my own, during the lockdown. People, who made men happy and who really cared about my wellbeing. But I have to thank social media (Instagram mainly), because it also told me about what other people were upto, reminded me of people I hand’t been in contact with and it is no secret, that Instagram stories act as great conversation starter countless times.

So I did reconnect with some old friends from school and some people I’d only met recently. Over time, I started nurturing those relationships back to good health and now my inner circle consisted of more than 8-9 people. It is no secret, that conversing with the same people everyday in an uneventful period becomes tardy, so expanding the circle did help.

Here’s a half of the best part : I ended up reconnecting with my ‘on again – off again’ bestfriend from school and I think this time, we’re going to stick around for a long long time.

Here’s another half of the best part : My relationship with a not-so-old friend grew to an extent where they’ve become my favourite person and one of the best things to happen to me in 2020.

13. Getting Over Excuses

ResolutionsExcuses
“I’m going to learn the guitar this year”“Work has been crazy and I don’t get the time”
“I’m going to take up dance classes over the weekend”, etc etc “Work is so hectic, I need the weekends to relax”, etc etc

Starting April, I did have a lot of time on my hands to jumpstart on my New Year Resolutions or do something I’d always wanted to do. Which I did, initially. But as the lockdowns became the new normal, I eased into my old lifestyle and spent time lazying around watching TV or doing something unproductive. It took me a while to realise that I ended up using ‘Work’ as a convenient excuse for all the things I was too lazy to do. It was pretty convenient since no-one could question it or hold me accountable because I prioritised over what helped me earn my living.

So yeah, I stopped making excuses and started holding myself more accountable for my boring monotonous life and took necessary actions against it.

14. Digital Evolution – Webinars/Zoom Calls and Digital Development at The Workplace

As a continuation to the previous point, I started taking up classes online. I took up a 3 month dance course, trained with my trainer over online sessions and brushed up on my guitar lessons with Youtube. These were things that I would’ve always preferred doing in person, until I couldn’t.

Work-from-home was also a concept that was not too common in my line of work. Mostly because we functioned in a more traditional sense. While we had been wanting to update ourselves and be at pace with the technological developments, we always ended up procrastinating for one reason or the other, until we were forced to do it.

But COVID19 and lockdowns forced our hand and now we have a fully functioning system where working remotely is smoother than ever.

15. My Parents and My Privilege

A roof over your head, running water and working electricity. As much as you use them, you might be taking these amenities for granted. Imagine your life without these conveniences, and you’ll find every reason to be thankful for them. I never had to worry about surviving in these circumstances and was mostly protected under my folk’s roof and had a convenient time.

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16. My Health

A lockdown meant I was not allowed to hit the gym nor go out and party or eat at restaurants. It also meant staying at home, choosing my own working hours and investing the time saved in commute to catch up on my sleep.

I researched and changed my way of working out, doing only body weight exercises (which were really nice for my joints), I focused on my mobility and saved myself from tiny niggles and injuries. Resorting to only eating home cooked food meant I was using healthier ingredients, watching what I was eating and improving my gut health. The added sleep also helped me deal with my everlasting fatigue and helped me be more calm and made me less cranky.

17. To Realise You’re Going To Be Able To Handle Adversity

@vaishnaviarote writes : This one is kind of a personal experience. Most of my family members tested positive to COVID, I even lost my beloved family member to covid.

Just when things could not get any worse, my younger sibling got diagnosed with something unusual that needed urgent surgery and left him to be dependent on people for daily activities. It felt like my whole world had collapsed. I felt like I couldn’t deal with it, but just like that I did and things have started to get better. Even when you feel like nothing is working in your favour, there will be this one thing that’ll make you have faith again and uplift you and make you believe. Remember,this too shall pass.

18. Taking care of your mental health

As the lockdown kept extending and a lot of things kept delaying along with it, my anxiety took a toll on me. I was not able to cope well with it but I was pretending like I’m okay which made it worse. A few of my friends encouraged me to seek help and that’s when I contacted a foundation that provided me with a counsellor. It’s still going on and I’m not completely alright but I’m doing a lot better. This year taught me that it’s okay to PAUSE and look out for yourself and your mental health.

19. Mental health awareness

A lot of taboo goes around mental health and how it’s merely an excuse or just in the head. This year has been very difficult for a lot of us and our mental health has gone for a toss in the bargain. I read a lot of articles about how people have been clinically diagnosed with depression and suicidal tendencies due to the anxiety, fear and loneliness that came along with this pandemic. But then along with this I also saw people making an effort to cope up. There were 24*7 helpline numbers for those who minds were going through a turmoil. People have been talking a lot more about mental health and taking it positively while supporting their loved ones.

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20. Getting rid of toxicity

I’m going to try to explain this with a small metaphor. 

Imagine you have an allergic reaction to something but you’re not sure what it is. So you stop engaging in certain activities (like petting a dog/cat) or eating some specific foods and then slowly resume each activity one at a time. Then, you just use the elimination process to rule out an activity after another.

Similarly, things were going well for me initially during the lockdown days when I was cut off from the world. Then slowly as the lockdowns were lifted and I started interacting with people again, I was able to realise what kind of people were toxic to me or not good for my mental health and I subsequently maintained a distance from them.

Ps. We have a lot of exciting projects coming for you in 2021. So do hit the subscribe button if you’d like to keep hearing from us and thank you for being supportive and leaving encouraging comments for us. It only motivates to keep going.

Here’s wishing you a very happy and safe New Year!

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20 Positives Of 2020 (Part 1)

Yesterday I spoke about why it is important to practice gratitude for your happiness and peace. If you haven’t read it yet, click here. I did not want to end this year on a bad note, because I have been grateful for a lot of things. So here’s an elaborate list of all the things that have come out of 2020 that have added value to my life and have a positive impact.

1. I Learnt New Skills

This is the easiest positive to begin with. Once things settled down and it was clear that lockdown and work-from-home culture was here to stay, a lot of changes took place. The primary change was that I’d end up saving time on commute and the relatively slow economy ensured lesser work assignments and ample free time at home (atleast initially, until people came to terms with it being the new normal). In order to use this free time efficiently, I ended up polishing on some of my old skills and learnt some new ones. 

I took my baking skills to another level to now be able to bake my own fresh bread, brownies and pie. I learnt to cook newer dishes from different cuisines too. I also ended up refreshing on my guitar skills, which I hadn’t played in almost 6 months. Webinars to brush up on some work related knowledge, more reading and educating myself on better ways to maintain hygiene and safety also took place.

2. I Learnt To Be More Patient

I also learnt to be more patient this year. Every person has been affected by 2020 and is dealing with it differently and it is important to respect that as well as give the other person their space and time. Things may not be available on demand as they once used to be. It was also necessary, since I was spending so much time at home with my family, which I hadn’t done in months.

Similarly, personal communication at work was replaced by zoom calls, making it more time consuming and slowing down the overall work cycle. Reports took longer and help did not come immediately. Thus, it became very important to exercise patience in these circumstances.

3. Importance of relationships

During the lockdown, the only people I got to see personally were my folks and siblings. Work carried on via zoom calls and a lot of time was spent doing house chores. At the end of the day, I ended up talking to barely a couple of close people outside my family that I actually missed or my work colleagues who I was in constant communication with.

This lockdown though, also somewhat forced me into spending more time and bonding with my family. It personified the phrase ‘blood is thicker than water’ for me. We took care of each other. We lifted each other up during our lows and I realised their importance especially when I heard about how lonely my friends got (the one’s who were living alone).

I had so little to worry and so many people to share my day and pass my time with.

4. Relationship priorities

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When it was announced that the entire country was going into a lockdown, survival seemed improbable for a social butterfly like me who went drinking or partying every weekend and had a big social circle. But, I mostly spent the entire lockdown only talking to members of my family and 4 of my friends. It was only these people that I spoke about my day-to-day with. 

I realised, the people outside my inner circle were irrelevant to my happiness and in some ways, not worth the effort I was putting in to stay relevant in those social circles. I was better off saving that energy and investing in myself and people within my inner circle.

5. Work-life balance and the ability to say ‘NO’

One of the biggest cons of a work-from-home office culture is the lack of fixed office hours. While in a normal world, I’d barely work once I was out of the office or after office hours, those rules didn’t apply anymore. Thus, it became all the more important for me to set up boundaries and be able to say ‘no’ when an unnecessarily high amount of work was being sent my way or being dumped on me.

With a more relaxed and balanced lifestyle, I was able to work more efficiently and not hate my job or my bosses while feeling fatigued or close to a burnout. A proper work-life balance helped me bring my personal life back on track, brought about a good change in my lifestyle and health and also made me more efficient and happy.

6. I learnt to plan things

It was not all fun and games during the lockdown. I was supposed to do my part in the house chores, help my mother in the kitchen and work was a pain, thanks to the endless zoom calls. Simultaneously, I had also taken up a couple of online classes, had to spare an hour a day for my workouts and was pursuing my passion of writing. This required for me to plan my day properly, in order to be able to make the best use of my time. 

Another example of planning was preparing a weekly list of things. Keeping safety in mind, we would try to buy all our groceries for the entire week in one trip. That meant, preparing elaborate list of meals and buying perishables accordingly. It was way more difficult than it seemed, because supermarkets were running short of supplies and we had to make do with what we could get.

7. Finding happiness in small joys

This is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned, that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. While I was stripped away from all of my indulgences and it seemed like hell had broken loose, I started to find joy and get excited about the smaller things in life.

Like when I could see my Soufflé rise in the oven, or on completion of a book or finishing a post in time to publish on the blog, playing cards with my folks after dinner, etc.

It just made me realize how important it is to celebrate the more regular occurring smaller joys of life and not wait for decades until I bought my own house or a luxury car or wait for a promotion, etc.

8. Being more independent

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Here’s something from @vaishnaviarote :

There was a point where I was living by myself for a few months and I had never entered the kitchen before. I didn’t know anything about cooking, instant noodles being an exception of course. I somehow got interested and started cooking these delicious meals all by myself while taking care of my rent, bills, laundry and work.

It was hectic but it also made me realise the pain our parents go through to provide us with all of these essential basic things and also how privileged some of us are. 

It made me a lot more confident about living by myself. I knew I could survive.

9. Needs vs Wants

COVID19 ensured that there were no appraisals or bonuses for the year. In fact, I was amongst the luckier bunch of people who got to keep their jobs and not take a pay cut. Here’s an account of what it was like to lose your job during the pandemic from our very own Esha J.

With the shutdown, my expenditures were reduced to almost a third of my usual monthly expenditures. I was not spending money on new clothes or going to malls or the movies, wasn’t eating or drinking in restaurants or pubs nor ordering-in came. I also ended up saving a ton of money which I usually spent on commute.

All I really ended up spending money on was groceries, my Netflix subscription and some utility bills. Since I lived under my parent’s roof, these expenses were also seldom often taken care of. All I needed was 20% of my actual salary to meet my needs and  an additional 10% to spoil myself. It opened my eye on a lot of wasteful expenditures I did, simply because I could.

10. The forbidden fruit is sweeter

Although I have never been someone who lives on alcohol or parties or just has to go out to the mall or movies, it was pretty easy to not engage in those activities initially.

But as time went by, I was craving to go to the movies or go to a restaurant or pub for the food and dancing. For the first time, I was actually starting to miss my workplace and my small (but well decorated) cubicle. I was just missing getting into my car and driving around the city. Atleast in the first few weeks when there was a strict lockdown.

It is only when something is taken away from you, that you realise how much it meant to you.

Note : You can check out Part 2 of our post here.

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Roomies by Christina Lauren

Summary :

Note : If you read about my last post on The Joshua Bell Experiment, you’ll find the theme to be very similar or almost the same.

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Roomies by Christina Lauren introduces us to Holland, a young woman living in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City and working with her Uncle Robert (who is her uncle by marriage to her Uncle Jeff) at a Broadway theatre where he’s the musical director for the hottest show in town. Holland has had a thing for this subway busker for close to 6 months now. Not only is he hot and Irish, but also a great musician. 

Over the last 6 months, she’s memorised his schedule and his movements and she tries to justify it by telling her uncles and he bestfriend (Lulu) that it’s all about his music. They are finally formally introduced when he saves her from an attack on the subway, but disappears when she files an official report.

She laters learns more about him and his problems and tries to help him out by introducing him to her Uncle Robert. However, she must do something practically illegal and reckless in order to help them out. 

Read the book to find out how it unfolds, because I don’t want to give out any more spoilers.

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My Thoughts :

So after a couple of months of reading some serious books and work journals, I felt the need to mix it up and do some light/happy reading and what’s better than a nice romance novel eh?

To me, most of these are fairy tales with their co-incidental love and happy endings. It may or may not be real (depending on whether you’re a believer or sceptic) but they certainly make you feel good. I think I have figured out what makes a romance novel work. 

It’s the way the characters fall in love. How they come close. How they connect. How they have their own inside jokes and little couple things. I think it is the process of love and how well it is portrayed that really makes the readers swoon. If you ask me, any story that makes the readers root for it’s protagonists is a story worth reading.

If so, this books ticks all boxes, because it does make you swoon.

It has 2 adorable central leads (which you probably will get slightly envious of), a dreamy supporting cast of a bestfriend and the most loving uncles; all stitched into reality with a scenic New York City, the broadway and some interesting drama. The book scratches the surface of the reality of immigration and illegal immigrants just enough to make it believable but not too technical. 

What is also unique is that this is not one but a writing duo, Christina Lauren. Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings are long-time writing partners and best friends according to their bio on christinalaurenbooks.com. I simply love that idea!

Writing a book with your bestfriend. It is something intangible that you’ll share for life, along with bouncing ideas off each other and having the best of both worlds. 

Is this book a must read? Probably not (especially if Romance isn’t your genre).

But is it a good and fun read and nicely written? For sure!!

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My First Day as an ‘AUTHOR’

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I am not an author. 

I don’t know if what I do qualifies as writing either. All my work you’ve seen on this blog is quite often nothing but me rambling or just adding my thoughts on paper (or a screen) or writing poetry after having my heart broken. I don’t even know the first thing about writing. I am a commerce student from a business and finance background who has not even participated in an elocution competition in school.

For me, writing began with maintaining a personal diary over the internet (that page doesn’t exist anymore) to penning down my travel stories and slowly moving on to more organised and thoughtful content. In my mind, I always see myself as a retired entrepreneur who’s replacing his day job with teaching and using the additional free time to write (It doesn’t hurt to dream!).

But you can’t really control all these ideas and thoughts in your head that you’d like to have penned down, can you?

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So, without further procrastination, I started writing the first chapter to my ‘new book’. Quite the irony, given how I have nothing but ideas and a very inadequate and shabby first chapter. 

Before I began, I did google some basics. An Indie writer doing about a hundred thousand words (100,000; I like how a hundred thousand sounds, as opposed to ‘A Lakh’) is a good start, with each chapter being 4000-5500 words (Or upto 10k-12k words if it is a classic). 

Sounds reasonable right? I thought so too!! So here’s my math :

1 book = 100,000 words = 20 chapter of 5000 words. 

If I plan to finish it within a year, that’s less than 300 words a day or more than 2 weeks for a chapter. 

So I did start. I knew exactly where I was going to begin and exactly what I was going to write, and I did. 60 minutes later, having written my entire first chapter, I ended at 1064 words. As far as my math was concerned, I did way better than my daily target. BUT, I was out of ideas with nothing to add. My imagination although, still flowing, knew nowhere to take a pause or how to go ahead. 

I HIT MY WRITER’S BLOCK WITHIN 60 MINUTES OF WRITING!!!

So shitty, I know. Well, I let it go. I knew what I needed to do. I needed to talk to more people, research on some new characters and backgrounds and then slowly and steadily bring it all together. Not as easy as it sounds though, since this would take up atleast a few weeks/months and totally screw up my timeline. 

But, a good night’s sleep and after rereading my first chapter a few times (it hardly took any time), some ideas popped. Then some more. It’s not even been 12 hours since my day began, but I am flowing with ideas and this time, I am writing it all down as a maniac. It is distracting though. 

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Taking a pause every few minutes to ponder on a new idea, critiquing it in my head and writing the outcome in that tiny notes app on my phone. Although as cumbersome as it sounds, I AM ABSOLUTELY LOVING IT!!

There’s just something really satisfying and joyful about being inspired and motivated and have your creative juices flowing. Boy oh boy, do I love this feeling!

So yeah, it was a very deflating and uninspiring first day, but it was a start; AND…. I am loving the second day of it so far!

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What Song Would You Want To Be Remembered By?

Story Time!

I met this girl a couple of years ago at a friends party and we hit it off instantly. We had similar interests and were both big Potterheads. We exchanged numbers and texted for a while and when things went well, we decided to go out for dinner and get to know each other in person. 

It was a nice dinner. We talked about a world of things and one of the topics amongst it was Music. Our choices, likes and dislikes, artists/bands we completely geeked out on, etc. 

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Turns out, she was a huge (and I mean HUGE) fan of Queen (The Band) and almost walked away halfway through dinner when I told her I did not know about them (THE BLASPHEMY!! – I know). In my defence, I’d heard of Bohemian Rhapsody and Freddie Mercury (because they’re icons and I don’t live under a rock), but I never knew about the band or some of it’s other music. 

Luckily, Bohemian Rhapsody (The Movie) had released a couple of weeks back and she decided that we had to go see it. I was enjoying the company too much and had faith in her choices by now to oblige. We left our dinner halfway and ran to grab the last show of the day.

Let me tell you this, that was one of the most amazing movies I saw that year and somewhat changed my life forever. I mean, Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury was so brilliant and THE MUSIC!!!!!

On my way back home, I downloaded the entire album from the movie and heard Bohemian Rhapsody atleast 10 times before going to bed. I have been a big big fan of Queen since. 

Here’s the interesting part. Although things with that person did not go too far, she brought something so awesomely intangible, that it is going to stay with me forever. 

She is always going to be the person who introduced me to Queen and every time I listen to Bohemian Rhapsody or any other Queen song (but who am I kidding, nothing beats Bohemian Rhapsody), I am reminded of her. 

Honestly, this is one of the nicest ways to remember someone if you ask me. I’d be pretty happy if someone were to remember me when they heard such a legendary song. Which is why I ask you?

“What song would you want to be remembered by?”

Ps. Here’s a link to Bohemian Rhapsody, for all those who want to listen to it since I’ve mentioned it numerous times now!

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Chai? Chai.

Synopsis:
This is not a post about Chai consumption patterns, statistics, or its health benefits. No no.
This is a love story.
And a journey of self-discovery.
So.. buckle up!

C h a i

Of course, you’re familiar with Chai. I mean. Who isn’t, right ?! * looks around the internet universe suspiciously *
I’m going to trail you along for a non-quintessential story, quite dear to me. But first, the lovely reader is going to relate with at least one (if not more) of the below avatars that I’m going to describe. Just a little ice breaker sesh before we start on our voyage, if you may.

So. What is your Chai personality? (not a Facebook Quiz, you guys. Come on, have a little faith)

The Bare Necessities.

The essence of waking up in the morning starts with a cup of Chai. No, you dare not talk to them before they’ve taken their first refreshing sip. It’s fuel to the body AND the soul.
Also, the number of cups they have during the day goes into the void; no trace can be found. There can be no minimum or maximum count. It’s limitless.

The Medicine Man/ Woman.

They consider Chai to be the remedy to all problems of life.
Gloomy Afternoon? Chai.
Didn’t get the bonus? Cutting Chai.
Stressed or feeling low? Chai (paani kaam)
Rainy morning? Adrak wali Chai. (with Parle-G)
Fought with a roommate? Kadak Chai.
Runny nose? Kaali chai.
Hotel? Not Trivago! Dip wali Chai!

The ME-Time.

They are simple people looking for simple pleasures in life. They will find that one moment of solace in their day and make themselves a big cup of their favorite Chai. Free of all judgments and pressures.

The Sutta Squad.

Every Chai needs a cigarette. Every cigarette needs a Chai. We can never know which is when. But we can safely assume, at any given point, that it can be both!

The Experts.

The know errrrrything there is to know about Tea. (noticed how I said Tea and not Chai? Hm.) They enthusiastically boil and bubble over intricate details of tea leaves, flavors, brew time, teacups, filters, etc; whenever there is even a HINT of tea in a conversation. They are a fun walking-talking Wikipedia; what’s more, they almost always have single tea bags stashed in their bags. (fruit-flavored? hell yeah!)

The Communal Statute.

They strongly believe that a communal gathering (3 people or more works) should be commemorated with a Chai session and/ or break. Chai sipping together is a bond that they sincerely cherish and value.

The Chai Latte Crowd.

You thought I wasn’t going to call you guys out, huh? Yes, these are popularly US return folks who seem to have forgotten what it feels like to pour piping hot Chai in the saucer, blow on it and then sip with a slurpy sound. #BeingDesi
Not to forget that one, extremely cringe-worthy person who will order it in an Indian Starbucks. UGH.

I do not mean to belittle these different types of Chai lovers, not at all! If anything, they are more like my co-passengers and counterparts than some status quo war participants. We all need a Chai companion in this journey of life, even if it’s to just share a packet of Monaco biscuits.

Since you’ve sort of figured which one you are, or maybe a beautiful blend of any of the above; why don’t you sip on your cup while I paint you a short story of my Chai Life?

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You & I

In a parallel universe, I wake up next to you,

Feeling your breath on the nape of my neck;

Maybe in a parallel universe,

I don’t have to yearn for your presence.


In a parallel universe,

I don’t have to swirl my brain,

Into a labyrinth of already overthought thoughts to make that call.

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In a parallel universe, I go back in time, to the old town of Manali,

Sneak in to the terrace, listen to Elvis Presley’s , ‘Can’t help falling in love with you’ ,

While we slow dance under the blanket of stars,

Staring at your almond shaped brown eyes, your smile as bright as the sunshine,

The blush on your cheek, the moonlight shining on your forehead,

Your perfectly aligned teeth, I feel cursed with my oh-so vibrant memory!

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In a parallel universe,

I am not scared of my heart beating so wildly,

When I think about you.


In a parallel universe,

you and I don’t give up on each other.

Maybe in a parallel universe you don’t walk all over me and leave.

Maybe, just maybe in a parallel universe,

our love didn’t crumble under the weight of our egos.


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Dubai – Luxury Personified

Disclaimer : This is an old post from my travel experience in 2016, one of my first trips since I started blogging. In hindsight, I realise I missed out on some truly beautiful places and for more info on Dubai, you can check out travelwidnik.com for some great insights and photos.

Coming directly to Dubai after a weeks travel in Frankfurt, Germany (Part 1 and Part 2); I was already so excited about this extended trip, until I got to see the view from the flight; it was truly breathtaking and unlike anything I’d seen before.

Those skyscrapers and towers, and standing amongst them, in its ultimate supremacy, The Burj Khalifa, the building I was in awe of, just as much as some of the mountains in the Himalayas or beaches in Asia.

One of those very rare man-made creations that I actually left me speechless!

The fact that we circled around for atleast 30 minutes did not tend to bother me for a change and all I wanted was for that to continue. I did not want to give up that aerial view just yet. I was trying to soak in as much as I could, and my helpless efforts at trying to capture that beauty. I don’t think any camera I’ve ever owned could do justice to that view!

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To start with, Dubai has the widest accommodation options ranging from $60 a night and upwards, sky is the limit! The cheaper accomodation is usually around the Bur Dubai area. Following that, it gets expensive as we move towards downtown and The Jumeirah. There’s also the Armani hotel, adjoining The Burj Khalifa, that is supposed to be really great.

Dubai has so much to offer to its tourists. Be it in terms of shopping, sightseeing, activities, adventure sports or just to chill around and relax.

Barasti Beach Cafe

This is one of the coolest places to hang out in Dubai, and a personal favorite. The ambiance is super and there’s always a live performer or a DJ. The place is always full and with a mixed crowd, people who are Semi-formally dressed and the others who show up in shorts too. Decently expensive alcohol and availability of Sheeshas makes it a crowd favourite. Open till 2am, this is must go to place especially over the weekend (Thursday-Friday night).

Atlantis, The Palm

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Captured from The Monorail

Atlantis is mainly divided into two for tourists :

1. Aquaventure – A water theme park

2. The Lost Venture Aquarium : A huge indoor aquarium

I’d personally heard a lot about the theme park and expected it to be the watery-version of a something close to a 6-Flags Amusement Park, although not as grand, it was pretty cool nonetheless. There are about 8-10 slides in all and a lazy river. One of the slides in the start, The Poseidon and the group tube slides are really the best! What I would personally suggest is get over with the rides in 4 hours between 10 and 1pm and get ready and head to the aquarium by 2. It is a different, rare experience that one should do.

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The Atlantis also has the dolphin bay, where one can play with the dolphins, and the dive into the aquarium to see the sea life at hand. There are various such highlights, but they need to be planned and booked in advance. Slots usually fill up as long as a couple of weeks beforehand. The Theme Park and Aquarium can be completed by 4pm which gives you ample time during the evening for shopping or some other kind of entertainment.

The monorail is the easiest way to get to The Atlantis, which currently stops at only two stations, The atlantis being the second one. Two other stations are currently under construction. The monorail gives a close view of The Jumeirah and the sea and is worth going on, simply for sightseeing

The Emirates Mall

One of the best attractions of The Emirates Mall is Ski Dubai,an indoor ski resort, a real snow wonderland. Put on your snow boots and experience Twin Track Bobsled runs, a Snow Cavern filled with interactive experiences, and Tobogganing hills. Head one down to the upgrade station for an exhilarating ride on the Giant Ball or jump on the chairlift for a one of a kind bird’s eye view of the entire park.Don’t miss out on the resident royalty with the March of the Penguins occurring several times a day and is free for all Snow Park guests. The Emirates Mall also has a really big arcade, fit for all age groups.

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A Glimpse of Ski Dubai

The mall is really huge and shopping can be confusing and exhaustive at the same time. Maily cause one can find all of their favorite stores here, and many brands have more than one store. The main structure of the mall is also weird. There are 4 levels on one side of the mall, and just 2 on another side, and mayve 3 on another side. So it is highly recommended that one study the mall map properly before heading to their favortite stores.

Meena Bazaar

Meena Bazaar is one of the biggest areas for shopping in Bur Dubai, for anyone who is looking for cheap shopping. Electronics, First copy of the most expensive watches, perfumes, etc. can all be found in this area. Most people running stores here are of Indian Origin. There are a lot of Indian Vegetarian restaurants here and quite reasonable as far as pricing and quality is concerned.

Desert Safari

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This is an amazing experience, truly meant for the adventure junkie or anyone who’s bored. They pick you in a Land Cruiser, and drive you to the desert.

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At the start of the desert, you’ll be asked to put your seat belts on and then you’re in for a rough ride of drifting and jumping in a car over the sand dunes. Some drivers ask for 100 extra dirhams and in exchange, would end up toplling the car upside down. Then you slowly, calmly get out and push the car back on its wheels.

At the location, there’s option to rent quad bikes and that is quite fun. They have a good seating area, with okayish or cold food. Some belly dancing and local dance sequences, fire play, etc. It would be useful to carry a jacket, cause the desert can get windy and cold. A ride back, a few hours after sundown and you’re back on your way. No more adventurous cars in the dark.

Gold Souk

Gold Souk is another market just to the other side of the creek from Meena Bazaar. You have to go to end of Meena Bazaar and get onto the boat. It takes one dirham per person to get to the other side of the creek. Just across the street are all the local spice shops. Walk a little further and you’d come across the Gold Souk.

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Captured from the boat ride towards Gold Souk.
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There are a lot of Jewellery Stores in the area and some really exquisite ones. So gold in dubai costs almost the same price, but their making charges are quite negligible compared to India, and hence makes it a very attractive place to buy jewellery.

Local perfume shops here, have a lot of Irani Perfumes that have a really strong, long lasting fragrance. They’re not for everyone, but the ones who like it don’t really want to move to other perfumes.

And there are many other shops for makeup and other products. Everything here is cheap, and many stores have just copies and not the original product, so its good to ask and be vigilant about it.

Dhow Cruise Marina

View from thee cruise!

There are two different dhow cruises that run in Dubai. One happens in the Marina area, the other in the creek. The cruise in the creek was boring, or so I have heard from others, and it has been more of a unanimous vote. However, the one in The Marina, started just a couple of years back and is something I found really nice.

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There was decent vegetarian food, a live dance show on the cruise and good music. One can sit in a closed restaurant like environment on the ground level, or open roof on the first level. As it goes through waters, One can see the whole of Jumeirah Beach Residences(JBR), The Atlantis that is across the sea, and the whole skyline near the marina. The view and all those lights just paint a mesmerizing picture (One my phone camera couldn’t do justice to).

The Dubai Mall

The Dubai Mall has a ton of attractions. The aquarium is huge, will consume about 3-4 hours of your time. The whole day if you decide to take up feeding the fishes and other similar exquisite excursions.

The mall also has a really cool ice skating rink. The restaurants are really good, especially the cafes not near the food court. Paparoti, as recommended by a dear friend, is a fantastic cafe. A personal favorite, has a lot of outlets all across Dubai, and its on my priority list for the next time that I go back to Dubai.

The entrance to The Burj Khalifa is through the mall, and hence one can plan shopping and activities accordingly. The mall is open till midnight, so that leaves a lot of time on your hand.

The Burj Khalifa

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This building makes me marvel and think about how far science has come. The lifts go from 1 to 124 floors in exactly 60 seconds.  And as brilliant as that is, it is not even equal to what more it has in store for you.

Standing on the 124th floor viewing gallery, it is visible and yet unbelievable to think that building goes up  75 more floors in height, if not in levels. A building that is at sea level, and yet manages to cut through the clouds almost everyday all through its life.

One can take the stairs and go up to 127th floor. I sat there for 4 hours, an hour before sunset. So looking at the bright day, to seeing the sunset and then it getting dark and seeing the whole city light up. It kind of made my day, the perfect end to the perfect trip.

The City and Beaches

The Sheikh Mohammed Palace, one amongst the many palaces of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is not gaurded by any sort of security whatsoever. Even when he’s driving or on the move, he has no kind of bodyguards around him. The only way people know its their king in car is by the number plate. The Sheikh’s number plate reads ‘1’. The only guy in Dubai with it. According to him, his people love him so much, that they cannot think of harming him, and hence no security is necessary. There are a lot of beaches in Dubai. The Jumeirah beach, Nikki Beach, etc. One can find people surfing, paddle boarding, etc. There are also a lot of cool shacks in the area which have some or the other kind of activity going on.

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The Burj Al Arab from The Jumeriah Beach

JBR is a really cool place to hangout at. The restaurants and clubs are quite expensive, but its a good place to chill and walk around nonetheless.

360 a nightclub in Dubai, and a host of other nightclubs that are open all night. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman on your own, Dubai is the safest place there is.

Abu Dhabi

There are various one day tours available to explore Abu Dhabi. The major places to see are The Sheikh Zayed Mosque and Ferrari World.

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A Panorama inside The Sheikh Zayed Mosque

The Sheikh Zayed mosque is the biggest mosque there is, in the UAE. It is so big, during Eid, more than 41000 people visit the mosque.The mosque is large enough to accommodate over 40,000 worshipers. The main prayer hall can accommodate over 7,000 worshipers. There are two smaller prayer halls, with a 1,500-capacity each, one of which is the female prayer hall.

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The outside of the mosque

More than 3000 workers were employed for the construction of this mosque. Natural materials were chosen for much of its design and construction due to their long-lasting qualities, including marble stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics. The mosque has the largest knitted carpet in the world, used about 1300 workers and weighs over 35 tons.

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There is a library, located in the northeast minaret, serves the community with classic books and publications addressing a range of Islamic subjects: sciences, civilization, calligraphy, the arts, coins and includes some rare publications dating back more than 200 years. The collection comprises material in a broad range of languages, including Arabic, English, French, Italian, Spanish, German and Korean.

Ferrari World

It is a very cool indoor theme park. Has about 25 rides, of which 5-6 were under construction. It is also important to read about the park online, many rides need separate tickets aside from the entrance fee, and the top slots are not available unless you’re lucky.

Regards,

The Travellothoner

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The Canadian Rockies – The Alaskan Cruise

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Image courtesy : Alaska Tours
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Ps. I hope you’ve read our experience through Vancouver here.

Whether you are interested in seeing glaciers and visiting The Glacier Bay National Park or checking out the Alaskan way of life and visiting old gold rush towns, there is an Alaskan cruise that can help you do just what you want. Cruises to Alaska are usually available from May through September each year. According to Alaska.org, there are around 15 cruise lines that offer Alaskan cruises. So one must do some very thorough research before booking their since this is no cheap affair!

How to choose the ideal cruise liner for you?

Step 1 : The first thing to do is decide what the start and ending destinations of your trip are going to be.

Step 2 : Fix your dates and budgets. These experiences usually range between 6 – 10 nights and it’s important to realise the time on your hands and the amount you’re willing to spend (more days also means more money).

Note : Going through the first two steps will eliminate half of your options and make your decision making easier. Usually, other than citizens of North America, most people take a trip though the Canadian Rockies and then head for a relaxing week on the cruise. 

Step 3 : Determine the type of cruise ship atmosphere you prefer, as it can vary between cruise lines. For example, AlaskaCruises.com lists the Alaskan cruises by Norwegian Cruise Lines to have a casual atmosphere, while the Regent Seven Seas have a luxury atmosphere, with Holland America Line Alaskan cruises having a premium feel in between the two.

Note : If you’re confused about which cruise liner to choose or what packages to take, you can check out this really helpful TripAdvisor Article!

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My Story

We had been on the Holland America Cruises, aboard the ‘Nieuw Amsterdam’. It was humongous, like a floating island, with almost 11 floors and over approximately 2100 people. The ship has multiple restaurants, some common and some, where a reservation and a formal attire is necessary. For more info on this cruise click here.

Pro Tip 1. Carry a suit or a blazer and appropriate footwear (especially for tourists) for an evening called ‘The Captain’s Dinner’ and for entry into some exclusive restaurants (I wish someone would’ve told me that).

Pro Tip 2. It is always preferred to take a balcony room. It is pricier, but it gives you a great view of the glaciers in The Glacier Bay National Park or when you’re simply spending time in your room (which isn’t a bad idea when the tides get rough and a lot of activities are put on a pause and in-room dining is unlimited).

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We made the following stops in our journey :

Skagway, Alaska, US

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The Municipality and Borough of Skagway is a first-class borough in Alaska on the Alaska Panhandle. The population in this town is close to 1000 people which doubles in the summer tourist season in order to deal with more than 1,000,000 visitors each year.

The port of Skagway is a popular stop for cruise ships, and the tourist trade is a big part of the business of Skagway. The White Pass and Yukon Route narrow gauge railroad, part of the area’s mining past, is now in operation purely for the tourist trade and runs throughout the summer months.

Fun Fact : This town totally reminds me of a typical town in a Texas as shown in various Hollywood movies of the 70s and 80s.

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The Train Ride

Glacier Bay

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think Glacier Bay was pretentious for the way it flaunts its ice. The glaciers practically terminate in your lap. A cruise to Glacier Bay National Park with Holland America Line will show you a UNESCO World Heritage Site that protects a unique ecosystem of plants and animals living in concert with an ever-changing glacial landscape.

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Literally nothing beats this scenery and view. A gods gift, untouched and super pure!
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Room with a view.

When a monumental chunk of ice splits off a glacier and thunders into the sea the impact shoots water hundreds of feet into the air (We could only manage to see small chunks, but it was glorious). You hold your breath as you catch the moment on film. Then you wait for it all to happen again. And it does!

Glacier Bay has more actively calving tidewater glaciers than any other place in the world.

Ps. Within the ship, people park and reserve seats hours before they get to this view. The deck and the viewing area are super crowded and the temperature in is negative and one would have to stand in freezing cold to get a good view. Hence a room with a balcony is a good decision to make. It is more expensive, but definitely money well spent.

Juneau, Alaska, US

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No roads lead to Juneau, which gives the Alaskan capital a misty inscrutability. You need to come by air or water, but when you arrive, the place will delight you with its bounty of water, forests, and mountains. Squeezed between the Gastineau Channel and Coast Mountains, Juneau offers a lot of variety in close proximity. The massive Mendenhall Glacier and the immense Juneau Icefields are at its back door. The vast Tongass National Forest stretches away to the northeast. You can shop downtown or get out and kayak, dogsled, raft, hike, whale watch, flightsee or fish. The adventures are as bountiful as the daylight.

The seaplane ride here is a must do, thanks to the glaciers that surround this place!

Ketchikan, Alaska, US

Ketchikan-103Ketchikan clutches the shores of the Tongass Narrows, with many shops and houses built right out over the water. The stairways are weathered and the vibe is cheerful in the town that calls itself the Salmon Capital of the World. Besides the main attractions — Creek Street, the Tongass Historical Museum, Totem Bight State Park and Saxman Village — try a flightseeing trip to Misty Fjords National Monument. These deepwater fjords were gouged out by retreating glaciers, leaving granite cliffs towering thousands of feet above the sea and countless waterfalls plunging into placid waters.

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Become-Member-Ketchikan
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Something to do in Ketchikan, other than walk around the city is to go on a ZipTrek. This park has about 7 lines, and goes right above the jungle, at an average height of around 70 feet. If you look down, it is very common to spot a bear or even a family of bears, unless the weather reaches an extreme or it starts to rain.


I really really hope y’all liked this entire series of The Canadian Rockies. Stay tuned for more of such experiences. Until next time!

Note : For more updates and photos, please follow us on FacebookInstagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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Grateful

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Reposting an old poem today which is really close to my heart. This poem is an ode and me showing my gratitude to some very strong female personalities in my life (friends and family), who’ve time and again supported me when I needed help, educated me when I was wrong and been there for me always. Originally published on May 20, 2019 here.


To the girl who thinks she’s not good enough,

To the girl who thinks she’s not as strong,

To the girl who thinks this hurdle she cannot get past,

To the girl who cannot stand up to point out you’re wrong.

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To you pretty ladies I’ve only got one thing to say,

You are wonderful the way you are, in your own beautiful way!

From the lady responsible for my existence today,

To the lady who held my hand when I went astray.


From the one who taught me to read and write,

To the one who loves to kiss me goodnight.

I am surrounded by y’all like a bee around a flower,

Walking around in ignorance, unaware of your power.

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Its an open untalked secret this circle of life,

From the days I needed my mother to seeking refuge in my wife.

Y’all run this world and make it a better place,

I hope one day I can repay you for every sacrifice and tear behind that face.


Until then I say “Thank You” and admire the graceful,

For your mere existence I am forever grateful.

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Protein Peanut Butter Squares

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This week was #HappyAtHome with Hershey India’s Cocoa Powder and we loved participating in their little weekly challenge, here is our Bake-Off No Bake Recipe for Protein Peanut Butter Squares

PREP TIME – 5 mins

COOK TIME – 60 mins

SERVES – 12 Squares (mini)

INGREDIENTS: –

Protein Square

  • 1 Cup of Rolled Oats (I used a small teacup, if you use a big cup then you will need a little more of the other ingredients)
  • 1/2 a Scoop of Plant Protein (I used Chocolate Flavour)
  • 2 Tbsp of Peanut Butter (I used Crunchy Peanut Butter)
  • 2 Tbsp Honey or Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tsp Hershey’s Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 Tsp of Water (room temperature)

Chocolate Spread

  • 2 Tbsp of Peanut Butter
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp of Honey or Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tsp Hershey’s Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)

METHOD: –

1. In a bowl, mix the Oats, Protein Powder, Hershey’s Cocoa Powder (unsweetened), Peanut Butter and Honey/Maple Syrup together.

2. Take the bar mixture, place on a tray lined with baking paper and place the tray in the fridge for the mixture to set.

3. In a bowl mix the Hershey’s Cocoa Powder (unsweetened), Peanut Butter and Honey/Maple Syrup together for a smooth chocolate mixture.

4. Remove the tray with the bar mixture from the fridge, spread the chocolate mixture on top. Once it’s done, place the tray back inside the fridge for an hour for the mixture to set..

5. After an hour, remove the tray from the fridge, cut the mixture into squares and dust some Hershey’s Cocoa Powder (unsweetened) on top. 

Ta da – Enjoy your Protein Peanut Butter Squares ❤

NOTES: –

You can use these squares in your morning protein shake/smoothies!!

For more recipes follow and share via Facebook and Instagram.

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